As part of our Recipes for Peace series, each week we feature an inspiring dish to celebrate the varied - and tasty - ways in which food can play a role in building peace.
Debbie Riehl's Mohinga recipe (MYANMAR)
I have chosen one of my favourite dishes which is also one of the national dishes of Burma (Myanmar): Mohinga. It is a fish broth served on a bed of rice noodles and garnished with various ingredients.
I was born in Burma and came to Britain when I was five years old. At that time, it was very difficult to get ‘exotic’ ingredients here in the UK. My parents always cooked Mohinga for us in one form or another depending upon budget and availability of ingredients. When I went back to Burma for the first time in 50 years in 2014, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the dish I grew up with still has a connection to the Mohinga served in Burma, which also now comes in so many different varieties.
Burma is on the cusp of change. Like all countries there are both exciting and frightening times, there are some good things happening and some very bad things happening. Burma has so much to offer to the world and so much to learn.
So I have chosen this dish as a simple example of how important it is for me to maintain the past and make connections to one’s cultural heritage yet equally important to mutate, change with and embrace one’s surroundings without necessarily losing one’s identity. I see that we are all connected and can learn and benefit from sharing and exchanging experiences and ideas. For me, food is an excellent vehicle for this. Sharing a meal is a great way of discussing important global issues that affect us all in a less confrontational way.
That’s why I’m delighted to be contributing to this initiative. I feel in particular that my own Hushhushdiningclub can add to the occasion as not many people have tasted Burmese Food; have you?
Ingredients for 6 people
- 300gms filleted, skinned and boned catfish or use cod, haddock or Pollock instead
- 1 stick of fresh lemongrass bashed
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 litres water
- 2 medium size onions, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 cm fresh ginger peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- 2 teaspoons shrimp paste soaked in 2 tablespoons of hot water
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 4 tablespoons peanut/groundnut oil
- 4 tablespoons Nam Pla (fish sauce)
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 large onion peeled and chopped into 1cm cubes then soaked in cold water for 15mins then drained
- 1 packet vermicelli rice noodles cooked according to instructions on packet
Garnishes (all optional)
- Juice of 4 limes
- 4 hard-boiled eggs chopped (boiled for 7 minutes once water is boiling)
- 1 small packet of fresh coriander, chopped
- Chilli flakes
- Deep-fried garlic in its oil
- Extra Nam Pla
- Chopped shallots or Spring onions and Onion fritters
Place fish, lemongrass and ½ teaspoon of the turmeric in a large saucepan with 500ml of the water and bring to boil. Simmer gently for 5 minutes or until the fish is just cooked.
Remove fish from pan, place in a large bowl and allow to cool. Make sure any stray bones are discarded. Reserve the fish stock.
Blitz the onion, garlic, ginger, dried chillies and the cooked lemongrass with a blender until you get a paste.
Heat the oil on a medium heat in a large saucepan and add the paste.
Cook until soft and caramelised, this will take about 10-15 minutes, stirring continuously, scraping the sticky caramelised paste from the bottom of the pan.
Lower the heat, add the watery shrimp paste mixture and then add the remaining ½ teaspoon of turmeric and paprika. Cook for 1 minute until the aroma of the mixture begins to develop.
Add the cooked fish and reserved fish stock and stir. Cover and simmer gently for approx. 15 minutes. If it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan then add a little water.
Remove from heat and allow the fish broth to cool a little then blitz with a blender in the saucepan until the fish is just blended, do not over blend.
Add the remaining water, the Nam Pla, black pepper and stir.
Return to heat and simmer gently for another 15 minutes.
Serve or it can now be cooled and reheated when needed.
About 8 minutes before serving, add the large chopped onion to the heating fish broth and stir. This will create a slight crunch to the dish, simulating the ingredient of banana stem that is typical to this dish. There is one supplier of this in the UK.
Serve over a bed of rice noodles and sprinkle garnishes on top. Some people mix the garnishes into the dish but I like to keep mine unmixed in layers on top so each mouthful tastes different!
Debbie has been cooking Burmese food all her life and is committed to getting more people to discover this lesser-known cuisine. In September 2014, she launched our Conflict Kitchen London – an innovative pop-up restaurant dedicated to discussing peace – by presenting a week of Burmese food. She runs HushHushDining, a Burmese supper club, and also hosts pop-up restaurants.
You can follow Debbie on Twitter @hushhushdining.